Posts tagged with ‘decision-making’

08 jul

Decisions, Decisions

MaricleDecision making can be a trying process for some of us. While many people are decisive, take action, and never look back, others hem and haw over career changes, how they feel about a potential partner, and even what to order for lunch. Whatever your decision making personality, taking the time to tune into your own inner wisdom can assist you in making positive choices that you feel satisfied with today, and years from now.

Mixed thoughts and feelings are what we usually refer to as ambivalence. Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary defines ambivalence as: “Simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings (as attraction and repulsion) toward an object, person, or action.” How can we feel opposite things at the same time? From a psychological standpoint, we all have separate, but overlapping parts of self, which we develop to serve different purposes. For example, I have a therapist, artist, wife, mother, child, and runner part, etc. You can visualize these parts of self as semi-overlapping circles that share certain skills, attributes, fears, insecurities, and habits. To get a clearer picture of this, think of how you behave at work – your tone of voice, word choice, posture, and timing. Now think of how you behave with your pet or your children at home. How would your child respond if you said, “I’d like you to consider moving nap time to somewhere in the window of 3 – 5 pm on weekends, as this would facilitate both afternoon chore productivity and morning play time.” Or vice versa, how would a colleague respond if you approached them the way you talk to your dog? “What a good employee! You met all your productivity deadlines this week! Good employee! Come get a bonus!” Thankfully, we can choose which parts of self to use in different contexts.

Because our parts overlap, more than one part often has something to say about a given decision. Let’s say you have inherited a little money, and are faced with a choice about how best to use it. The fun-loving child part of you says, “Go on a vacation! You deserve it. Life is meant to be lived.” The responsible, parent part might say, “Don’t be so selfish, invest and build up some money for your daughter’s college tuition,” and then a fearful part might say, “If you don’t invest in your retirement, your daughter won’t have anywhere to visit you because you’ll be living on the street!” Which of these voices is “right?” All of them are. The trick is to weed through berating, belittling, or shaming voices and decide if there is a nugget of wisdom there, or just the stones of self-doubt. Once you do that, you can sift through all of the information logically and decide on the best course of action.

How do you let these parts or voices be heard? To explore them, discover how they can help you make better decisions, and use existing strengths in different parts of your life, try the following exercise.

Create a parts map:

Draw a circle on the middle of a page. This represents what I will call your “core self,” the center of you, so to speak. Now draw an overlapping circle and label it with one of your roles (i.e. daughter/son, mother/father, student, employee, cat lover, athlete, skeptic, activist, etc.) Continue drawing overlapping circles until you feel you have represented the major roles/parts of self. Now label some of the qualities, both positive and negative that each part exhibits. Use colors, shapes, and symbols to make your map more illustrative and rich. You could also draw each circle on a separate page so that you can manipulate which circles overlap, depending on the qualities they share.MaricleFigure1

You may find that different parts of self have different strengths that could be used in other parts of your life. For example, in my work life, I have always felt confident and stable. I expect that good things will come my way, and they always have. In contrast, in my love life, I used to fear being left. This clouded my choice in partners and my behavior in relationships. I frequently felt hurt, abandoned, and dissatisfied. At some point, I began using my work self’s positive and secure attitude in my personal life. Using elements of my work self, I was able to let go of my desire to meet someone on a certain timeline, and of course, that’s when I met someone. This is a “fake it till you make it” approach in the beginning, but eventually it will come naturally. These are all parts of you, after all.

Getting a good understanding of different parts can assist you in listening to your own wisdom. You can clear away voices of self-doubt and unfounded negativity, making a path for new endeavors by heeding the inner wisdom that helps you avoid pitfalls and make positive choices.

Amy Johnson Maricle, LMHC, ATR-BC is a psychotherapist and art therapist in Foxboro, MA. She loves helping teens and adults find ways to live happier, healthier, and smarter. You can find out more at:

DISCLAIMER: This information is not a substitute for professional psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content provided by Maricle Counseling and Amy Maricle, LMHC, ATR-BC is intended for general information purposes only. Never disregard professional medical or psychological advice or delay seeking treatment because of something you read here.

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Posted by Amy Maricle on July 8th, 2013 in Health, New Directions | No comments Read related posts in , ,

26 sep

How Monkeys, Jam and Fencing Can Help You Make Decisions Quickly and Confidently

RenitaKalhornEquinox Gym has 18 locations in New York City, and I have an all-access pass, which means I can go to any of them. This offers fantastic variety for mixing up my workouts but also means that planning my workouts each week can become a logistical nightmare.

In addition to choosing between my eight or nine regular classes, I have to factor in whether one of my favorite instructors is teaching, travel time to the gym, proximity to a business meeting and whether there are two classes I can take back-to-back — the permutations are mind-boggling. On days that my brain is overloaded, I have been known to waffle over the possibilities until I have no choice but to scramble to the last available class of the day!

This is a pretty typical example, I think, of how our options in the information age have multiplied exponentially. More choice means more decisions: Who and when to marry, when or if to have children, whether to take the overseas job promotion, rent or buy, Mac or PC, sparkling or tap – the sheer volume of decisions we face can be overwhelming, to the point that we can’t decide at all.

Have you heard of the famous jam study? In The Art of Choosing, Columbia University professor Sheena Iyengar tells about the experiment she and her research assistants carried out at a local San Francisco supermarket. Posing as reps for Wilkin & Sons, they set up a table where they presented various jams for sampling. Periodically during the day, they switched between offering 24 flavors and six flavors; everyone who stopped by the table was given a $1 coupon.

Now, this wouldn’t be the ‘famous jam study’ if the results had turned out as expected. And in fact, more of the people who had seen the small assortment — 30% — decided to buy jam. Only 3% of those who saw the larger assortment did. Interesting: even with something as basic as jam, people are more likely to buy when there are fewer choices.

Of course, not making a choice is also a decision. But decision by default rarely produces meaningful satisfaction. So, gym quandaries aside, here’s my cheat sheet for making decisions more quickly and confidently:

Determine what’s important to YOU. Too often, we try to make a decision without first getting clear on what we actually want. You may know very little about camera technology and still find yourself standing in front of the store display comparing megapixels, optical zoom, vibration reduction and countless other features that you didn’t even know existed. That’s backwards. First, determine what criteria are important to you (not the manufacturer, not the salesperson), and stop evaluating the ones that aren’t.

Decide and commit fully. Olympic fencer Jason Rogers says: “Indecision weakens your skills. Better to do the wrong thing with 100 percent of your effort than the right thing with 50 percent.” How often do you play it safe rather than going all out? Strong conviction in your decision can very well compensate for any flaws in your reasoning. While a habit of tentative execution — though it may not get you poked in the eye with a saber — will steadily gnaw away at your confidence. As Byron Katie says: “When we try to be safe, we live our lives being very, very careful; and we wind up having no lives.”

Factor in human nature. The collapse of the financial markets in recent years demonstrated, on a large scale, the human propensity to take greater risk to avoid loss than to achieve gain. Laurie Santos, a psychology professor at Yale University, was curious to see if she could trace the roots of our irrational economic behavior and created an experiment in which she taught monkeys to use money and engage in marketplace trading. Turns out, monkeys also demonstrate loss aversion, just like humans. It’s in our genes!

Elsewhere, humans are consistently inaccurate in their assessment of perceived vs. actual risk. As security technologist Bruce Schneier asserts: “People exaggerate spectacular but rare risks and downplay common risks. They worry more about earthquakes than they do about slipping on the bathroom floor, even though the latter kills far more people than the former. Similarly, terrorism causes far more anxiety than common street crime, even though the latter claims many more lives.

The take-home message: Knowing how our evolutionary tendencies can trip us up, we can compensate and consciously make smarter, more rewarding choices.

Make decisions from where you want to be. Consider this: Your best thinking got you where you are now. So if you want to improve an area of your life, you need to make different decisions. To start thinking like the person you want to be, adopt a role model (or two) — someone whose achievements or behavior you admire. When you’re feeling stymied, ask yourself: “What would [my role model] do?”

Make decisions quickly. Face it, you will never have complete information before making a decision. Three things that can make it easier to take the plunge: First, it’s easier to change the direction of a boat that’s already moving – the sooner you take action, the sooner you can course-correct. Second, though no-one enjoys making mistakes, that is where the most valuable learning is. The sooner you screw up, the sooner you know what doesn’t work.

Third, in his TED talk on what really makes us happy, Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert explains how, thanks to our “psychological immune system,” we overestimate the effect that events – positive or negative — will have on us. It stands to reason, the consequences of our decisions won’t affect us as long or as much as we think.

The bottom line? Successful people make more decisions.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Renita Kalhorn on September 26th, 2010 in New Directions | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , ,